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Minnesota primary election one week away

Aug. 9 party primaries will feature several high-profile races to determine who advances to November ballot.

MINNEAPOLIS — Once again, Minnesota voters are being asked to go to the polls in the summertime to decide who will be on the ballot in November. Early voting is already underway heading into the Aug. 9 party primaries.

Several hotly contested races are attracting some buzz, as challengers take on that parties' endorsed candidates as well as longtime incumbents in the same party.

Those candidates fighting their own party's picks tend to hope those who actually vote will reflect a different cross section of party faithful than those who worked for months to get a seat at the endorsing conventions.

"Often times, when the candidate gets the convention endorsement, those individuals who show up at the convention are a subset of the larger group of people who show up at the primary," David Schultz, a Hamline University professor and veteran political analyst, remarked.

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"They're looking for that sweet spot between people who care enough to vote in August but at the same time, don't fully reflect the views of the activists at the convention."

One contested statewide race is the Republican primary for attorney general, which features attorneys Jim Schultz and Doug Wardlow. Schultz got the party's nod at the state convention, while Wardlow has name recognition from running for the same office in 2018.

"Wardlow, who ran as the endorse candidate four years ago, is now running as the insurgent, claiming the mantel of Trumpism, having the support of Trump supporter Mike Lindell," Steven Schier, a Carleton College professor emeritus and longtime analyst, told KARE.

Wardlow has acted as Mike Lindell's attorney and espouses the My Pillow founder's unproven theories that then-President Trump actually won the 2020 election. 

Traditionally in Minnesota, Republicans are more loyal to the party's endorsed candidate, while Democrats have been known to buck the convention's choice.

Congressional races

In Congressional District 5 in the Minneapolis area, former City Councilman Don Samuels is trying to unseat incumbent fellow Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar. Samuels has positioned himself as a moderate focused on public safety, while Omar has touted her work in Congress expanding access to food for children.

"This race will be determined, in part, by where people turnout," Schier remarked.

"If the vote is heavily from Minneapolis, Omar is probably in pretty good shape because it's likely the suburban voters in this district are not going to be Omar supporters."

Omar, a member of the progressive "Squad" in Congress, survived a primary challenge in 2020 from local attorney and mediator Antone Melton-Meaux. 

Since 1962, the winner of the DFL primary in CD5 goes on to win the general election, but there's also a Republican primary in that district. It's a showdown between Cicely Davis, who has the party's endorsement, and Royce White, a former NBA player who is endorsed by Trump advisor Steve Bannon.

In the Fourth Congressional District in the east metro, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a longtime incumbent who sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and chairs the Defense Subcommittee, faces a challenge in the DFL primary.  

Community organizer Amane Badhasso has the backing of the liberal Take Action Minnesota in her primary challenge, and has already been running TV ads claiming McCollum is out of touch with her district.

"A lot of activists on the right and left want action now. They don't like compromise. They're suspicious of office holders. That's leading to new levels of insurgency in these primaries," Schier explained.

In the First Congressional District of southern Minnesota, voters will decide who serves the remaining five months of the late U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn's term. Republican Brad Finstad, a former state representative from New Ulm who served in the USDA in the Trump Administration, is carrying the GOP banner in that special election.

Jeff Ettinger, the former Hormel CEO in Austin, is the DFL candidate for that special election. Both Ettinger and Finstad are also in party primaries the same day for the two-year term in Congress from CD1. Finstad faces a formidable challenge in that primary from Rep. Jeremy Munson, who has the endorsement of Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

"The first district has got the most confusing election calendar probably in Minnesota history," Schier said, noting that the 2012 district boundaries are in place for the special election, while the new 2021 district borders are being used in the primary the same day.

Hennepin County attorney

There's also a cluster of contenders in a nonpartisan primary to replace retiring Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. Longtime public defender Mary Moriarty won the endorsement at the DFL convention, but House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler has a well-funded campaign organization.

Prosecutor Paul Ostrow and Saraswati Singh are also actively in the hunt for Freeman's job, along with former district court judges Martha Dimick Holton and Tad Jude. The top two candidates in the primary will advance to the November ballot.

If you'd like to know which races and candidates will appear on your primary ballot, check the What's On My Ballot page on the Minnesota Secretary of State's website.

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